Rescue Department issues award to two persons who rescued a man from icy water

Publication date 1.5.2024 6.34 | Published in English on 7.5.2024 at 10.28
Press release
A woman and a man in front of a fire unit.
Jan Strandholm and Johanna Suhonen received the Elämän liekki award.

On Good Friday 29 March at around 11 am Jan Strandholm and Johanna Suhonen were walking along a path in the northern part of Kulosaari when they spotted a person in a hole in the ice off the shore. They could not hear any calls for help.

Jan Strandholm and Johanna Suhonen proceeded to move closer to where the person was in the water, and Suhonen called the emergency number 112. The Emergency Response Centre alerted units from the Helsinki Rescue Department, the Helsinki Police Department, the Central Uusimaa Rescue Department and the Finnish Border Guard to commence a “Rescue of a person from water” mission. At the same time, Strandholm approached the person in the water, who was still not shouting for help, but lying on his back in the hole in the ice. 

“There weren’t really any other options”, Strandholm describes the situation and his decision to brave the ice to help.

Closer to the hole, Strandholm concluded that the person could not get out on his own. As a result, Strandholm made the decision to brave the ice, which ultimately resulted in him falling into the water himself while helping the person in distress. While the hole in the ice was not very far from the shore, the person would not have been able to get out without Strandholm's help. 

Strandholm initially tried to pull the man out of the hole by using his own jacket as an improvised rope. The man’s grip slipped, but he managed to lift a heel onto the ice.

“I grabbed his heel and just dragged him out of the hole”, Strandholm recounts. 

Strandholm ended up falling into the icy water twice while helping the man. 

The first authority to reach the scene was a Helsinki Police Department patrol, after which the Rescue Department’s executive fire officer in charge of the mission dismissed the other alerted units, except for the nearest rescue unit and emergency care unit from Herttoniemi Rescue Station. Once the rescue unit arrived, they were greeted by Strandholm in his wet clothes. He was taken into the rescue unit to warm up, while the police patrol escorted the rescued man, who was suffering from severe hypothermia, to the rescue unit. The firefighters immediately started administering first aid treatment to the patient, and the treatment was continued by paramedics upon their arrival at the scene. 

According to sub officer Juha Westermark from Herttoniemi Rescue Station, it is clear that the person would not have been able to get out of the hole without external help, suffering as he was from severe hypothermia. There was also a bit of luck involved, as it is quite possible that no one would have noticed the person in the water if Strandholm and Suhonen had not been out on a walk that day. 
“All’s well that ends well, and the incident definitely made me appreciate the work of firefighters all the more”, Strandholm said on May Day Eve at Herttoniemi Rescue Station, where he was awarded the ‘Elämän liekki’ (‘Fire of Life’) award by Rescue Commander Jani Pitkänen. 

Strandholm and Suhonen’s actions were worthy of the ‘Elämän liekki’ award: they rescued the life of a person who had fallen into icy water. The award was proposed by sub officer Westermark, who was on duty on Good Friday. 

The ‘Elämän liekki’ award is given to a person whose actions most likely prevented another person from dying or being severely injured. The Helsinki City Rescue Department has been giving out ‘Elämän liekki’ awards since the early 1990s.


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